Coming into the teaching biz, I was never a "student teacher." That oxymoronical term was left to those who could afford a more traditional credentialing program, the kind that allows you to sit down after a long day and debrief with a master teacher and discuss the ways that the day's lessons might have gone better. Instead, I opted for the intern approach, taking classes in the evenings and trying them out on my students during the day. What I did discover was that the best way to become a better teacher was when I saw somebody doing something in their classroom that worked, I would take it and make it my own. This theft of intellectual property was encouraged, and little by little, I got the training I needed primarily through osmosis. It does make me think that the first room full of kids that I had are due a large apology, but they were all a part of my professional growth. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Being a father isn't a lot different. I have already confessed here that I didn't always do my required reading ahead of the birth of our son, and I imagined it would be a walk in the park compared to the daily crush of dealings with adults. This was my chance to form my own little person, with a mind that would reflect my own in the most positive ways. Then, suddenly I was a dad and I found myself learning on the fly. It should be noted that this event was essentially concurrent with my teacher training. To suggest that I was making it up as I went along would be a stretch, though it seemed like it at times. The truth is that I had some great inspirations: my older brother and my father, both of whom gave me hope that my gene pool could create another generation. A big heart, a sense of humor, and boatloads of patience were required, but as I kept at it, I found the job tough but profoundly rewarding.
The other day, as I guided my son through his first few passes at mowing the lawn, I thought about my dad and my older brother, the guys who showed me how to overlap the rows just a tiny bit, and to keep the bag from bunching up at the grass chute. It made me smile. Fourteen years later, it turns out that I might be good at this after all.